Updated: Jan 9
I've put together this quick blog to remind you to BREATHE.
Yep, that's it. A reminder to use your breath - A really powerful tool which we often forget to use in times of stress.
Breathing is something I've got a lot better at since taking up yoga about two years ago and developing a regular (if not sometimes undisciplined) practice. And it's so important.
Good breathing can literally be the difference between a good day and a bad day, a restful night's sleep or a disturbed one, or a stress-headache or stomach ache vs. a relaxed body.
So here's three breathing techniques that you can easily practice daily over the festive period (and beyond!) to keep you stress free and totally chilled:
1. JUST BREATHE DEEPER.
That's right, simple!
There's a reason people say 'deep breaths' to someone who is feeling stressed or anxious, but how many of us actually stop and do it? Connecting to our inhales and exhales and using them to consciously calm us down is SO POWERFUL. This is nothing revolutionary, but try to practice it any time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed:
Close your eyes. Place one hand on your belly and breath in steadily through your nose with the intention of moving your hand. You're breathing right down into the belly.
Once the belly is full, breathe into your ribcage. Then, see if you can breathe just a little bit more into the top of your chest to fill the lungs right to the top.
Hold your breath whilst you straighten your spine, lifting out from the waist, and tuck your chin to your chest slightly. Relax your shoulder and make sure you're not holding any tension in the body. Release your deep breath through your nose, slowly and with control, making your exhale last as long as possible.
This breathing will bring guaranteed stress relief.
2. BREATH OF FIRE
A great breathing technique to do in the morning to get you pumped up and ready to take on whatever the day throws at you.
The Breath of Fire will, amongst other benefits, help to strengthen your nervous system to combat stress. I learnt this breathing technique in yoga class, and whilst I am not a yoga teacher, I feel like I can explain it well enough to share it here. (There are lots of tutorials available on youtube by professional yoga teachers if you're unsure of what I'm describing or how to do it).
Place one hand on the Solar Plexus / higher naval area. Do a few normal breaths concentrating on breathing into that area (not as deep as belly breathing!)
Then, forcefully and rapidly inhale and exhale repeatedly through your nose.
Your inhale and exhale should be of equal lengths and strengths.
On your exhale your belly button should come back and up towards your spine. On your inhale your diaphragm should should expand out.
Keep your shoulders and chest completely relaxed.
It should be quite easy to find a nice rhythm, but don't go for too long or too fast, or you'll get really dizzy!
In-between rounds, and at the end, take a moment to pause and do some deep belly breathing whilst reflecting on the fire you've generated in your core.
If you do feel too dizzy or agitated at any point whilst practicing breath of fire, stop, and do some deep breathing.
3. ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING
To create a sense of calm.
Another breathing technique I learnt in yoga class, alternate nostril breathing can help you to relax, bring balance to your mind and body, and reduce anxiety.
Sit comfortably and bring your right hand up to your face. Tuck you elbow in at your waist to avoid it getting tired. Bend your index finger and middle finger in towards your palm so they are out of the way, with your thumb and two little fingers sticking out.
After a few deep belly breaths, use your thumb to block your right nostril.
Breath in deeply for four counts through your left nostril.
Now hold the breath by blocking the left nostril with your two little fingers. Hold for eight counts.
Release your thumb from your right nostril and breathe out, slowly and with control, for eight counts.
Breathe in for four counts through your right nostril.
Replace the thumb so both nostrils are covered, and hold for eight.
Release your two little fingers and breathe out for eight through your left nostril.
That's one round. Repeat until you feel balanced and calm.
So, that's it from me. I'm glad I wrote this as it has also served as a reminder for me to use my breath more often! I am absolutely guilty of getting too stressed and forgetting to practice what I preach.
Let me know if you try out any or all of these breathing techniques, and if you enjoy them!